Computer Skills—they’re not just for desk jobs anymore



by Melany Hallam

January 2017 Water Cooler Question: Do you have the computer skills to do the kind of work you want to do? Yes / No / I’m getting there

This is kind of a trick question these days because pretty much any job will require computer skills at some point. You may be working in construction or forestry, believing that you’re safe from the insidious screen time that is the lot of today’s desk jockey. But you’d be wrong.

Even years ago, when I worked as an administrator at a BC college, courses such as Construction Safety Training System, WHMIS, and some specialty forestry certifications were offered completely online. The most difficult part of these programs for some of our students wasn’t the course itself but navigating the various parts of it on screen and figuring out how to complete the quizzes. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have on a subject. If you haven’t mastered the use of a computer mouse, you won’t be able to demonstrate that knowledge and get your certification.

It still surprises me how many people aren’t all that confident with technology. If this sounds like you, you’re definitely not alone. As recently as 2013, an international study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that almost 15 percent of Canadian adults were unable to do simple computer tasks such as sorting emails. Of the 27,000 Canadians that took part in the study, close to 20 percent couldn’t complete the assessment because they didn’t have the required computer skills and experience. In fact, more than 10 percent of Canadian respondents reported no prior experience with computers at all. However, Canada did come in seventh overall of the 22 countries which participated in the study, ahead of Germany, Japan, and England—but behind Sweden, Norway and Australia.

Some of the most basic computer skills most of us will need for work (besides how to use a mouse) include email, internet browsing, word processing and managing files such as the folders where photos are stored. You may not have a computer, but you likely have a smartphone and the concepts are the same. Do you know what to do when you get a message on your smartphone telling you to update your operating system or that you’re running out of storage space? When you send an email, do you know how to attach a photo to it or find the email again after you’ve sent it? When you’re applying for a job, are you able to create or update your resume?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, there are all kinds of basic computer courses available in Powell River to help you. Here are some places to start:

  • Career Link offers monthly and weekly workshops in email/internet, resumes and cover letters, basic computer skills and applying for jobs online. The schedule is available here
  • Vancouver Island University, Continuing Education courses here
  • Powell River Public Library, Tech Savvy sessions are listed on the events calendar here
  • The Community Adult Literacy & Learning program offers free one-on-one tutoring here (depending on availability of volunteer tutors)

With all of these options, 2017 could be the year that you break through that technology barrier. Why not give it a try?


More information:

  • The OECD study can be found here
  • Here is a quick list of basic computer skills most people will likely need at work these days



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